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Stephen Samuel Messutta

Stephen Messutta’s Answers

1,997 total


  • Can a landlord charge the tenant the deductible from their insurance in an accident?

    My neighbor had an apartment fire it damaged the entire kitchen and smoke damage throughout the entire apartment. My landlord said that because she did not have renters insurance that she is going to charge her the 5,000$ deductible from her insur...

    Stephen’s Answer

    Your information is not necessarily correct especially if the fire was the result of the tenant's negligence: renter's insurance includes liability coverage, which is essential to protect the tenant. What is that? It is coverage to protect the renter from damages the renter may be legally liable for when the renter's negligence causes damages to property of third parties. In the 'typical' case let's say the renter has a visitor and the renter negligently damages the visitor's property during the visit; the liability insurance kicks in (although there may also be a deductible on the renter's policy too that the renter will be liable for). But landlords are also third parties and leases often make tenants liable for damages that the tenant negligently causes to the landlord's property, which includes the structure. While the landlord's insurance company may honor the claim, it may have the right to go after the party that actually caused the loss -- the tenant. If the tenant has coverage its insurance company might then reimburse the landlord's insurance company. So without that critical coverage, the tenant is exposed to paying out of pocket for those damages. Because of the amount involved, it is worthwhile bringing the lease to an attorney to review to determine the renter's liability and whether the lease protects the tenant from 'subrogation rights' being the landlord's insurance company's right to seek that kind of reimbursement.

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  • Township is claiming that the easement for a drainpipe is right on our property line, when the drain is visibly 5 feet away

    We are trying to put up a fence and there is an easement for a drain pipe. The township says we need to stay 10 feet away from the easement. We are fine with that. They are saying that according to the plot map, the easement is on our property lin...

    Stephen’s Answer

    Based on the information you provided there may be two different but related things going on here, and you may need an attorney's help:
    1. Where is the easement area: Surveyors have disputes, but let's assume the county plat and your surveyor's are accurate. Let's also assume the actual drain is within the area itself. The area is the legal area within which the county is entitled to have its facilities. Assume the actual line is within that area, but near the edge of the area. This may cause the county problems in the future because if the line needs to be repaired or replaced, they may need access onto your property for the "overdig", which is the actual area needed to be excavated to gain access to the line.
    2. Rules regarding installations: The problem you are encountering is perhaps where the real misunderstanding is. The rule may be that no matter where the actual line is, you must stay 10' away from it. "JULIE" usually is called out before any installation to verify where a line (electric especially) is. So if the actual line is near the edge of the area, the rule would apply to where it actually is.
    - If the line is outside the easement area and within your property boundaries, which doesn't appear to be the case at this point, that would be an encroachment the county might have to address.

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  • Can I withhold rent if the landlord doesn't have everything up to code?

    The central A/C doesn't work properly. My power outlets are loose and hard to get a connection. I don't have screens for all my windows. My drain gets clogged.

    Stephen’s Answer

    Under state law, you have the right to notify the landlord about code issues and if they are not addressed in 14 days, you may be able to withhold a portion of your rent IF YOU have the problems fixed - It's called the Illinois Residential Tenants' Right to Repair Act. In Chicago, you may have similar additional rights depending on the nature of the property - it's called the Chicago Residential Landlord & Tenant Ordinance. EVERY Chicago lease is supposed to have a copy of a summary of the Ordinance attached, whether or not it covers the unit, and if you didn't get it, there is also a penalty.

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  • Can I take my landlord to court for not telling me about hidden fees on my electric bill.

    When I moved into this apartment three months ago, my landlord told me I had to pay electric and gas. But she did not tell me that I paid the electric to run the washer/dryer that five other people use, the water heater for the entire building and...

    Stephen’s Answer

    If you have a written lease, somebody (like an attorney) needs to review it. Hopefully it says you only pay utilities for the apartment. She may not have told you because she may not have known that the bills sent to your apartment covered shared/common area utilities. Or she in fact hid the fact that they were metered together from you. Have your lease reviewed first, hwoever, because if it says you pay for more than the apartment's utilities (perhaps because you got a break in rent because the landlord doesn't want to separately meter things), that could produce a different outcome. However even if that is the case if you were not aware of it, and the lease doesn't even suggest it, then you may have a good case for fraud. Plus there may be building code issues for the landlord.

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  • Illinois Public Aid attached a lien on my property.

    My brother is on permanent disability, receives Public Aid and resides in a Nursing Home. At one time, my name and his was listed on the property (which used to be my mother's home). Several years ago, I had his name removed from the property. ...

    Stephen’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    If he was on title when he entered the nursing home, the lien may in fact be valid regardless of subsequent transfers. The way it works is this: if you transfer title to assets and then within 5 years go on public assistance, the IDPA can "look back" and go after assets transferred out of the name of the aid recipient if the transfer was within 5 years prior to the date the aid started. So first of all, those time lines need to be clarified. Secondly, it will depend on how you and he held title. If, for example, you and he were "tenants in common" then the lien would only attach to his "50% interest", but if you were joint tenants then it covers the entire value of the property. See an attorney who can help put the time line together properly, before attempting to contact IDPA.

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  • One year after closing, the seller's attorney found an error credit paid to buyer. Should the buyer pay back?

    The seller's attorney made the wrong calculations of the credits.

    Stephen’s Answer

    I agree with my colleagues. Moreover, most real estate contracts state that all prorations are final. Both parties would have to admit to the error and it would have to be material, among other things. If you had an attorney for closing and he or she knew or should have known of the error too, then that attorney should be consulted as well.

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  • We done a contract for deed home purchase in 2010. We recently were served w/ a summons for breach of contract. What can we do?

    My husband was injured at work shortly before that and underwent surgery. The seller knowing we were getting a settlement kindly worked w/ us for over a year regarding our payments and never charged us late fees. Husband had a 2nd surgery regardin...

    Stephen’s Answer

    Get an attorney immediately! You've been served with a lawsuit! Whether the matter can be settled is totally unknown given the situation.

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  • Sellers fixed everything themselves post inspection without proof. What can I do to ensure everything got corrected?

    We had an inspection on a house on 5/4/15. The sellers received a copy of the inspection from our lawyer on 5/5/15. Our lawyer also sent a letter to the sellers saying that we will need proof (receipts) of the corrections from the inspection. T...

    Stephen’s Answer

    As with my colleagues, if you are not happy with your attorney's advice you have the right to find another attorney. That being said, the fact pattern suggests nothing out of the ordinary but the contract language likely dictates what your rights are at this point.

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  • Real estate

    My husband sold our martial property an signed my name without consent or power of attorney. this was in 2008 an i have been homeless since. What legal rights do i have?

    Stephen’s Answer

    Way too little information. See an attorney. Sorry.

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  • If a loan configuration was 80/20 and home equity has now been charged-off, can the lender sue for the balance?

    1st mortgage was foreclosed 2+ years before home equity loan was charged-off. Both 1st mortgage and equity line were with the same lender.

    Stephen’s Answer

    While I agree with my colleagues, when a 1st mortgage is foreclosed upon but the 2nd/HELOC is NOT (which sometimes is the case), the 2nd/HELOC becomes the first. So unless it was released of record and the debt cancelled or you were discharged in bankruptcy on it, the 2nd, now the first, could be an active debt.

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